You know why I like Julius Malema? I like Julius Malema for one reason only – he dared to challenge us as a black youth to have ‘economic freedom in our lifetime.’
It is important at this stage that I must add a clause saying that I am unsure of Malema’s intentions. For the most part I feel like he is playing a hurtful game. Like a conniving boyfriend he makes me feel high elation when he says what I want to hear – only to drop me into such deep insecurity when his actions prove otherwise….
Still, had this player not uttered the phrase ‘economic freedom in our lifetime’ would the South African masses have ever debated this very serious subject? Probably not.
This inequality has been glaring us in the face and yet none of us Black people have said a thing for fear of destabilising the convincing lie called ‘rainbow nation.’ We wait for handouts, we expect the government to do this and that for us, we get shocked when politicians act like politicians. I am rather tired of it. But I think I understand where it comes from….
My difficulty with being Black is that I have always felt like I had this inadequacy that I cannot get rid of. I have armed myself with books; I have built a sturdy fort around myself that consists of my nippy car, a sweet home and things. I have taught myself to articulate my thoughts fluently – but in English; not in Setswana – my mother tongue. I remember once my father had some friends over – they were white so I responded in English. They were so proud they congratulated my father and I ‘you are really getting good. We can barely hear your (African) accent.’ As a child this was the acknowledgement I needed. Dare I say I even dream in English now?
My English ‘twang’ made it easy for me to move in affluent circles. It gave me a stamp of ‘success’. I know now that this way of viewing myself and other Africans is superficial and silly. But a lot of things we Black people do are superficial and silly. We will swim in a murky sea of dept just to be seen with our Dior sunglasses, wearing Carducci while driving in a drop top Merc. We accumulate all these things not to have long term success for ourselves and our communities – but to be seen as flourishing. This has seemingly become our measure of Freedom.
And you know what? There is absolutely nothing wrong with success. In fact one of the people I used to report to in my previous employment was a middle aged Jewish guy. Because of his executive position and some private initiatives – he was very wealthy – and he thoroughly enjoyed his money. As I was in the marketing department, he would occasionally ask me to place an ‘advert’ in some local Jewish school. It was really a donation because we did not sell anything 16 year olds would be remotely interested in. Some colleagues secretly frowned at this as they thought money should be going to more appropriate publications. I, on the other hand admired this about him. I thought it commendable that he is uplifting his community by throwing 10k at this school; 10k at another school and so on. I felt a bit jealous too. I thought if every Black executive could just take 10k out of their marketing budget and donate it to a Black school or community project – little by little we will progress.
After World War 2 more than six million Jews died due to Hitler’s wrath. Jewish people retaliated by empowering themselves. Jewish people, like Indian and Chinese people, will seek out their own products and services first. In this way the money they make, is paid back to their own entrepreneurs and therefore their own communities. These groups build each other up. No question about it. Consequently they have taken on the western world without lifting a single gun or blurting out a single insult to anybody.
And hence when Malema says ‘economic freedom in our lifetime’ my heart quickens with hope. Not so much because Malema will do something solid about it – but because other people who are more sincere to the Black cause will start thinking in this way too. For the first time we as a Black race are talking about economic independence, not for one but for all. This is real freedom. Life has taught me a harsh lesson – speaking perfect English does not signify Freedom. Driving a fancy car while being debt ridden is not Freedom. Living in a mansion in Hyde Park but going home to visit your family that lives in a filthy unhabitable township is not Freedom.
This piece from Chika Onyeani’s book demonstrates my thoughts – he says:
“……..We (Africans) do not produce the radio we listen to, the television we look at; we do not produce the cars we drive; we do not produce the guns we use in killing one another…..”
Chika further mentions that “Africans don’t have the capacity to discover oil, they don’t have the capacity to drill for the oil, they don’t have the capacity to refine the oil…….”
I sincerely ask you to please bare with me while I tell you the obvious, but perhaps when I explain the latter statement you will comprehend the gravity of the Black man’s state…. It means the West comes to Africa – takes oil and a host of other things back to their home countries – they refine our resources and then sell them back to us at a ridiculous premium…. Black people! Something is terribly, terribly wrong with this picture. And deep in the deepest depths of our hearts we know it. And that is why we still feel a bit jittery in the presence of a white man. Because as it stands today, we can’t compete with him.
Economic Freedom in our lifetime? For the moment my feelings are of anticipation and optimism – because in reality the road ahead will require mammoth dedication, genuineness and hard work on all our parts. I pray this means embracing our communities. I pray this means putting down the weapons. Our weapon should be education. Our weapon is entrepreneurship. Our weapon is writing books and resuscitating African culture and pride. I hope economic freedom in our lifetime means being ambitious enough to be leaders of industry and build competitive empires. This is the only way we will gain respect from others. Indeed, this is the only way we can find peace in our hearts.